Governmental Affairs News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Lame-duck session ends after passing Main Street Fairness

The 97th Michigan Legislature wrapped up its lame-duck session shortly before 7 a.m. today and delivered a huge victory for retailers before adjourning. MRA won hard-fought passage of our Main Street Fairness legislation, an achievement several years in the making. All legislation that was not approved will formally die at Sine Die, which occurs on December 30. Any bills presented to the governor must be approved within two weeks of reaching his desk.

Main Street Fairness heads to governor's desk
After several years of positioning, MRA was successful this morning in getting the legislature to pass Main Street Fairness legislation (SB 658 & 659). The bills require out-of-state, “remote sellers” with nexus in Michigan under the legislation’s expanded definition of the term to collect the state's sales tax. The bills were included in a last-minute deal cobbled together on road funding. The bills passed on their own merit and are not tied to the success or failure of any ballot initiative or other issue. The legislation takes effect on October 1, 2015. 

Thanks to all of our members who weighed in on this issue helping us to provide a huge win for the retail community.

7 percent sales tax to backfill road funds will appear on May ballot
Lawmakers agreed on a complicated road funding plan that mostly hinges on voter approval of a one-penny increase in the state's sales tax (HJR UU) from 6 percent to 7 percent to backfill the repeal of the sales tax on fuel. The plan will appear on a special statewide ballot in May (proposed ballot language is included in HCR 39). The proposal also asks voters to eliminate the sales tax on gasoline, remove higher education funding from the school aid fund and amend the Use Tax distribution to increase funding to schools.

Other pieces of the roads plan also tied to passage of the ballot proposal contained in HJR UU include a switch to a 14.9 percent wholesale tax on fuel (from the current 19 cents per gallon) with an inflationary adjustment mechanism, elimination of the depreciation for passenger vehicle registration fees, increased fines on overweight trucks, road construction warranties, competitive bidding reforms and a restoration of the earned income tax credit from its current 6 percent to 20 percent.

The deal almost fell through and its future is not certain because it is tied to the ballot proposal. Legislators had to strike several last-minute deals in order to shore up the two-thirds support in the Senate necessary to put the constitutional amendment on the ballot.

The ballot proposal itself has a tough uphill climb to be approved by voters. As the legislature adjourned, many business groups were displeased with the agreement that passed. That begs the question of who will fund a campaign to approve a sales tax increase measure. While we expect school groups, road advocates and a few others to come to the table, the business community may end up taking a collective pass.

Other bills MRA has been tracking:

  • Federal emissions standards (SUPPORT): The House approved legislation (SB 910) on Tuesday to prevent the Department of Natural Resources from enforcing the new federal emissions standards on woodstoves. MRA supports the legislation, since the standards could impact both retailers and their customers.

  • Employer liability (SUPPORT)The House concurred in legislation on Tuesday that seeks to reduce employer liability concerns for hiring paroled felons (HB 5216-5218). 

  • Voluntary veteran preference (SUPPORT)On Friday morning the Senate unanimously approved HB 5418, which allows private employers to adopt a voluntary veteran’s-preference employment policy to hire, promote or retain workers.

  • Pharmacy tech licensure date moved back (SUPPORT): The Senate on Thursday approved HB 5482, legislation pushing back the effective date for pharmacy technician licensure requirements to June 30, 2015. The initial licensing requirements were passed earlier in 2014 and were set to take effect on December 22, the same date that license applications will be made available. HB 5842 now gives the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and applicants adequate time to complete the licensing process.

  • PIC requirements extended to wholesalers and manufacturers (NO OFFICIAL POSITION): Also included in HB 5842 was language added late on Thursday to expand pharmacist-in-charge (PIC) requirements to wholesale distributors and manufacturers. The bill requires a manufacturer or wholesale distributor of a drug to designate a PIC, or an employee with the appropriate education or experience, as facility manager. An exemption for a manufacturer or distributor of a prescription-only device, but not for prescription-only drugs, was included. 

  • Food safety requirements (NO OFFICIAL POSITION): SB 730 was approved by the House and concurred in by the Senate on Thursday. The bill requires a food service establishment (a place where food or drink is prepared for direct consumption through service on the premises or elsewhere) to have a certified food safety manager complete food safety training on allergens within two years of passage and every five years thereafter. The department must approve the food-training program. Establishments with more than 20 locations in Michigan may satisfy the training requirement through completion of a nationally recognized food training program. The bill also requires an establishment to prominently display a department-provided poster in the staff area. The act sunsets on December 31, 2021. 

  • Scrap tire regulations (NO OFFICIAL POSITION): Legislation that strengthens the registration requirements for scrap-tire haulers in an attempt to crack down on dumping was approved by the legislature on Thursday. The bills (SB 941 & 942) create a $200 registration fee for scrap-tire haulers (that are owned or operated independent from a scrap-tire processor) and require haulers to obtain a $10,000 bond in favor of the Department of Environmental Quality.

  • Local pre-emption on wages and benefits (SUPPORT): Legislation (HB 5977) that would prohibit any local ordinance, resolution or policy regarding wages or benefits never passed its chamber of origin last week and officially died. HB 5977 included language on community benefits and prevailing wage that made it too controversial to pass in the waning days of session. The bill will likely be brought up again next year when the more conservative 98th legislature convenes.

  • DDA legislation (NEUTRAL): Legislation to require additional transparency, reporting requirements and some limitations on public funds failed when support fell short from the impacted parties. The bill sponsor was term limited, so it is uncertain if the measure will be reintroduced.

  • Pet health regulations (SUPPORT): HB 5095 passed the Michigan House 83-27 on Thursday. The bill requires additional pet health, safety, import and holding period requirements for large-scale breeders. MRA was supportive after successfully including exemption language for pet shops that hold adoption events into the definitions of animal control shelter and animal protection shelters. The bills impact the direct sale of dogs, cats and ferrets.

  • Pet adoption legislation (SUPPORT): Before adjourning for the year, the Senate failed to approve legislation dubbed as “Logan’s Law” (HB 4534, 4755, 5061-5062) that seeks to reduce animal abuse by requiring animal protection shelters or private adoption agencies to check an electronic list of animal abuse offenders before approving an adoption. MRA supported the legislation after clarifying language was included to ensure pet stores and other retailers can continue to allow adoption agencies to host adoption events at their location without being held liable for those adoptions or being considered an adoption agency. MRA will work with our partners next year if the legislation resurfaces.

  • Retail food licensing fees (OPPOSE): The House failed to approve a bill that would have increased license fees for retail food locations. HB 5490 is a bill pushed by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to move its reliance away from less reliable general fund dollars, increase staff within the Food and Dairy Division (specifically the Food and Dairy Safety Program) and improve technology for customers and staff. As a department-led bill, we expect a similar bill to be reintroduced next year.

  • Anti-zapper pilot program (OPPOSE): SB 1100, which would have authorized a pilot program to install anti-zapper devices on POS systems in retail stores, failed to receive a vote and is dead for the year. Despite the fact that the sponsor is term-limited, the Department of Treasury is interested in moving forward with similar legislation next year.

  • Accelerated filer credit cap (OPPOSE): The legislation (HB 4920 & 4921) was approved but the language the Department of Treasury wanted to add to retroactively cap the half of 1 percent credit that accelerated Sales Tax filers (retailers who remit $720,000 or more in sales tax per year) can claim was never added to the bill.

  • Recycling Measurement (NO OFFICIAL POSITION): Legislation MRA had concerns with that required recyclers to notify the state of all recycling activities (HB 5740) never made it out of House committee. While the bill will likely reappear next year, we could move to a neutral position with the proper clarifications and exemptions.

  • Antifreeze bittering agent (NO OFFICIAL POSITION): Legislation that would have banned manufacturing or sales of antifreeze that does not contain a bittering agent (SB 29) was reported by a House committee in March but never received a vote on the House floor.

  • Tobacco fine increases (NO OFFICIAL POSITION): SB 311, which would have raised the fines for violations of the tobacco act, was not approved by the House. Proponents of the bill argued that the fines had not been increased in years.

  • Retail fraud cost recovery (SUPPORT): Legislation allowing for the recovery of law enforcement costs related to retail fraud cases (SB 729) was another year-end casualty. The bill never made it out of House committee. We expect the bill to be reintroduced next year, since retail fraud is one of the few crimes that is not eligible for cost recovery and helps law enforcement.

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